Illustration by Scott DuBar
Bargaining. After years in a relationship with my dear wife, I’ve learned that bargaining is the key to spousal happiness. Some may call it compromising, but that implies both wife and husband have to give up something for a greater good. But by bargaining, if done correctly, I come out the victor and essentially get what I want. And what I want is a new mountain bike.
Bikes are like skis to those of us who possess the outdoorsy persuasion. Both are vehicles of mountain fun, both are objects of obsession depending on the season, and both become obsolete in a few short years of ownership. There’s always new technology being developed that makes your three-month-old setup look dull in comparison to next year’s models on display in the glossy, annual gear-guide magazine. It’s a manufacturer conspiracy, I tell you, conceived to make fools like us buy new stuff every damn year! As a recovering gear addict, I am far too susceptible to this siren song, which means I buy new skis pretty much every winter. The difference with new bikes, however, is they require a lot more coin in the realm of thousands of dollars. Hence the need for spousal bargaining.
Odds are very bad that my wife will be amenable to another expensive bike taking up room in the garage. That’s problem numero uno: I already have a very nice, top-of-the-line, full suspension that I love and ride all the time. However, it’s a now-obsolete 26er with 160mm of travel. This bike is killer on technical descents and shuttle rides, but is not conducive to hours of cranking uphill or riding all day on cross-country singletrack. Therefore, I covet a 29er hardtail to add to my quiver. But I know this kind of reasoning will fall on deaf ears, and her likely response will be, “you already have a mountain bike.”
So to place the bargaining chips in my favor, I decide there is only one thing I can do: bring up the subject when my wife is drunk.
To increase success, I whisk my beloved spouse to a fancy wine and dinner pairing at the Silver Fork Lodge in Big Cottonwood Canyon. Our friends, Mason and Lexi, come along, which is good because Mason is even more of an avid cyclist and bike hoarder then I am. In fact, it’s his opinion that since I don’t have a cross or road bike, then two mountain bikes are entirely reasonable. He’s in my corner, so to speak.
Dinner begins and the glasses of wine come and go. Wisely, I wait until after the third glass, skating through the light Chardonnays and sweet Rieslings to enter the Merlots, Pinot Noirs and such, before broaching the question as if it were a fleeting idea. So I turn to Mason, and loudly speak so my wife can hear. “You know, Mason, you’re really fast on that 29er of yours. I can’t keep up with you anymore. I think I should look into getting one myself.” This is a strategy to test the waters and see if more wine is needed before proceeding. But my heart sinks as my love immediately points her finger at me as says, “Noooooo!”
At least she’s smiling when she says it. I take that as a good omen.
Evening becomes night, more wine is consumed, and Mason and I debate all the wonderful reasons for new-bike ownership, making sure that it’s all within earshot of my wife. Propositions include: I can preserve my old bike for our son to ride when he becomes of singletrack age, the large-diameter wheels of a 29er are much faster, which means I would make it home sooner, and that some bikes can become valuable classics – like Mason’s mango-colored Specialized FSR, which he compares to the USS Constitution – a treasure worth preserving.
Finally, as we near the end of dinner and the last drop of Malbec is lapped up, my dear, sweet, better half finally makes her first bargaining concession. She proposes that if I buy a new bike, then she gets to adopt a new dog. I’m completely against such a preposterous idea considering that we already have two pain-in-the-ass pooches. Instead of backing me up, Mason, who is now six glasses deep, wonders aloud why Sarah McLachlan doesn’t sing about lost bikes in need of a good home. All I can do is figuratively shake my fist at my wife, because the wine is gone, and she has won this round.
But then, days later as we lay in bed just before going to sleep, I turn to her and say that I wasn’t joking about wanting a new bike. She asks how long I’ve had my current one.
“Four years,” I reply.
“Well, I guess you need a new one then,” she says.
My pillow is under my head, which is good because my jaw would have fallen onto the floor. So after weeks of research and agonizing which bike to get, my final decision is actually pretty obvious. I choose a bike that will honor my bike-obsessed friend who crawled with me through wine-soaked trenches and helped convince the unconvinced about the absolute necessity of owning a new wheeled-steed. That bike is a 27.5+, hardtail, Diamondback Mason.
But now that I’ve put a few miles under my shiny mountain bike, I’m afraid I have buyer’s remorse. Don’t get me wrong, the bike is fun and fast and everything I had hoped it would be. But Mason gets weirded out when I ride it. In fact, he hangs up the phone every time I call him and say I need “saddle time with my Mason,” or I need to “straddle the top tube of my Mason,” or I need to “break my Mason in and take him for long ride.”
I think he’ll accept the situation after a few glasses of wine.